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Court rules: Goodyear must cover health costs for workers hurt on the job

One man suffered hearing loss in an explosion. The other hurt his shoulder with years of heavy lifting


The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company plant on Ramsey Street just north of Fayetteville will have to continue to pay two workers who were injured on the job, the N.C. Court of Appeals says.

On Dec. 19, the Court of Appeals ruled that Goodyear must continue to compensate a worker who lost part of his hearing when a large battery exploded.

And on Tuesday, the Court of Appeals said a Goodyear worker had long-term injuries in his shoulder, caused by his job lifting heavy slabs of rubber on the factory production line. The court said he was entitled to compensation for treatment.

Battery explosion damages hearing

In the battery explosion case, the ruling says in 2018 Danny Nelson — an employee of the company since 1994 — was using an electric truck inside the tire factory and needed to swap out the battery, which weighed 1,200 to 1,500 pounds.

“Plaintiff later testified, without objection: at the time of the explosion he was leaning over the battery and looking to his left; the explosion broke the bolts off the lid on top of the battery; a ‘large cloud of acid’ struck his face and clothes; he was ‘deafened in [his] ears from the sound of the explosion’; and the explosion shook the walls of the building he was in,” the ruling says.

The ruling says Nelson lost a lot of his hearing, then it improved, but then it got worse again. He also had intermittent ringing in his ears, dizziness, and balance issues, it says.

Goodyear in summer 2020 stopped paying for Nelson’s care for his hearing troubles and related issues, the ruling says, arguing that the conditions he was experiencing by then were not connected to the explosion.

Nelson sued.

The N.C. Industrial Commission, which hears worker compensation matters, sided with Nelson in March 2023 and ordered Goodyear to continue to pay expenses associated with his hearing loss and related health issues.

Goodyear appealed to the Court of Appeals.

A three-judge panel unanimously agreed in December with prior rulings that a “preponderance of the evidence” indicates Nelson’s hearing issues were caused by the explosion, and that Goodyear and its insurance company, Liberty Mutual Insurance, must continue to cover the costs of his treatments.

Osteoarthritis, bone spurs, scar tissue, damaged tendon

According to the ruling issued on Tuesday and a previous ruling in this dispute that the appeals court issued in 2022, Goodyear worker Stanley Spencer began working at Goodyear in 2011, and in 2012 started a position that involved heavy lifting. He had to pick up and move slabs of rubber with up to 85 pounds of force.

Sometimes the slabs would get stuck together and need more force to break free, the records say.

In April 2018, Spencer encountered a stuck slab of rubber. When he tried to pull it free, “he felt a pop in his left shoulder, resulting in immediate pain,” the 2022 ruling says.

He sought medical treatment and eventually had shoulder surgery twice — which Goodyear refused to pay for through worker’s compensation insurance, the ruling says.

One of his surgeons found Spencer’s biceps tendon was surrounded by scar tissue and osteoarthritis in his shoulder, the ruling says. The osteoarthritis caused two growths on his bone, called bone spurs, to develop, it says.

The surgeon first repaired the damaged tendon, removed the scar tissue and bone spurs, the ruling says. A second surgeon later operated to address tears in his biceps tendon.

The Industrial Commission concluded that the physical stress the Spencer’s job imposed on his shoulder led to the injuries. Spencer suffered from an occupational disease with his shoulder problems, the commission said, and Goodyear and its insurer, Liberty Mutual, are responsible for paying for his treatment.

A three-judge Court of Appeals on Tuesday unanimously affirmed that finding.

Senior reporter Paul Woolverton can be reached at 910-261-4710 and pwoolverton@cityviewnc.com.

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goodyear, court of appeals, fayetteville, worker's comp